Study projects 2/3 fewer county residents by 2064

Cumulative population change, 2014-2064<p>According to the Center for Economic Development and Business Research, Kansas? working-age population is projected to increase by 10.3 percent, while the state?s population that is older than 65 years old is forecast to almost double during the next 50 years. The Kansas youth population is projected to increase by 1.5 percent, considerably slower than the state?s working age and retired population groups. In 2034, the population of Kansas residents older than age 65 is forecast to exceed those younger than 18 for the first time in state history.Concerns expressed during recent county-wide meetings to discuss economic development and the future of Marion County have been reinforced by a recent study of Kansas population trends.

A forecast released by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University is projecting that Marion County will lose two-thirds of its population by 2064 if current trends continue.

While Kansas itself is projected to see a 21.8 percent increase in population by 2064, Marion County would see its population drop from 12,208 in 2014 to 4,063 over the same 50-year period.

The study indicates that 20 of Kansas? 105 counties are projected to see population growth, while the other 85 are projected to have population declines between 2014 to 2064.

Of the declining counties, Marion County is among 17 counties in the state projected to experience the steepest decline, estimated between 94 and 59 percent. Marion County?s projected loss is 66.7 percent.

Change is possible

Jeremy Hill, CEDBR director, is quick to say that the results of the study are based on an equation using verifiable statistics over time. But that doesn?t mean a grim future is inevitable.

?There are a number of other variables that could change the outcome,? Hill said. ?We?re just taking existing data and saying every year, no matter what, it is an undeniable fact that people are going to get older, people are going to die, people are going to move and people are going to have babies.?

The Kansas Population Forecast used a collection of population, birth rate, death rate and migration data from every county over the forecasted time span to calculate the results

The study did not include other variables that are important to a healthy economy, he added.

?This does not include industry trends, this does not include other social structures within the community that are strong and might keep people there longer than what we would have predicted,? Hill said.

?Will Marion County really decline to 4,000-some people in 50 years? There are some chances that people?s preferences might keep them there,? Hill said. ?But you should still say this is what the numbers are saying, and we have to think about that. We can?t ignore it.?

Losing young people

In the data breakdown by age groups, Hill said Marion County has been declining by 1.4 percent each year in the number of age 18-24 females.

?That?s an important cohort to have children, and that means the number of kids that you have are declining as well,? he said. ?In fact, that?s the biggest decline?under (age) 18 you?ve got lots of decline. You?re not repopulating your own population.?

Hill said the projected trend is clear, based on hard data. The future is much more fluid, but communities need to hear the current reality and develop strategies to change the dynamic.

?There?s lots of ways a community can look at itself and change the direction of the path they are going in,? Hill said.

?It doesn?t always mean your elected officials have to do it, but clearly, getting elected officials matched up to the right industries, events and technologies are all important ingredients for moving forward.?

Hill said population trends change when the existing population works together to make it happen.

?The population says it?s an elected-official problem, and then the elected officials say it?s an economic-development problem?but it really goes back to everyone,? he said.

Written By
More from Don Ratzlaff
Senator becomes a student
USD 410 Superintendent Max Heinrichs welcomed a new student to Hillsboro High...
Read More